ADF International


International experts appeal to European Commission President to do more for religious freedom worldwide


  • Open letter to von der Leyen urges continuation of Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU
  • Role said to be vital in protecting the persecuted

BRUSSELS/WASHINGTON, DC (14 May 2020) – International religious freedom experts sent an open letter to the EU asking for more engagement in protecting the fundamental right to religious freedom across the globe. The letter urges Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, to continue the mandate of the Special Envoy for the promotion of religion or belief outside the EU, a role created by the former Commission in 2016. Participants of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable, including ADF International, signed the letter requesting the extension of the position. The letter also highlights the increasing attacks on freedom of religion or belief all over the world.

“Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith. The role of the Special Envoy for the promotion of religion or belief outside the EU has been vital in standing up for those who are unable to freely practice their faith. In a time when freedom of religion is specifically threatened and violated, roles such as this one must be strengthened and not cancelled. Through the Special Envoy, the EU can lead international efforts in protecting those persecuted for their faith and continue being a leading voice on universal human rights,” said Kelsey Zorzi, Director of Advocacy for Global Religious Freedom at ADF International.

Letter calls for EU to be leader in human rights

The letter outlines the increasing attacks on freedom of thought, conscience, and religion over the past decade and calls for the EU to be a leader in upholding these rights internationally. Through its experience in working with the Special Envoy, the International Religious Freedom Roundtable expressed its gratitude for both, the Special Envoy’s cooperation and successful advocacy for victims who have been targeted for their religion or belief.

The letter references international reports indicating that freedom of religion is under increasing attack: “83% of the world’s population lived in countries with high or very high levels of restrictions and/or hostilities in 2017, up from 79% in 2015, 74% in 2014 and 68% in 2007. These freedoms are undermined and threatened in many parts of the world, whether in the form of blasphemy and anti-conversion laws, severe restrictions on freedom of expression and the free practice of religion, or physical attacks on people targeted because of their religion or belief—such as Muslims in New Zealand, Christians in Sri Lanka, Jews in San Diego, or the ongoing crises involving the Rohingya in Myanmar.

Even now, countless prisoners of conscience, among them those imprisoned for their religion or belief, languish in appalling circumstances, exceptionally vulnerable to diseases like COVID-19. These individuals need the voices of the international community.”

Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International said, “Around the world, millions of people are facing persecution because of their faith. Christians, in particular, face widespread and severe persecution. No one should turn a blind eye to the plight Christians face every single day.”

The International Religious Freedom Roundtable is a group of high-level experts and international organizations protecting and promoting religious freedom for communities of all faiths.

Read the whole letter here.

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Faith-based legal advocacy organization that protects fundamental freedoms and promotes the inherent dignity of all people.